“I loved being able to use research as an excuse to eat my way through the country”: Eileen Cook on book research in Italy

When Jill wakes up in a hospital bed with her leg in a cast, the last six weeks of her life are a complete blank. She’s been told is that she was involved in a fatal accident while on a school trip in Italy and had to be jetted home to receive intensive care. Care that involves a lawyer. And a press team. Because maybe the accident . . . wasn’t just an accident. With no memory of what happened or what she did, can Jill prove her innocence? And can she really be sure that she isn’t the one to blame?

David Tennat eyebrow raise

INTRIGUE. We’re dying to read this one so we snagged a few minutes of Eileen Cook’s time and asked her a few questions.

withmaliceTell us a bit about ‘With Malice’. While on a school trip in Italy Jill is in a horrible car accident. She wakes up in the hospital with no memory of the accident or the six weeks before.  Jill is devastated to hear that her best friend died in the accident and horrified that the police don’t believe it was an accident- instead they’re tying to prove Jill murdered Simone.  Jill has to fill in the missing time while trying to decipher if other people’s stories of what happened are accurate before she’s forced back to Italy and a trial.  She’s forced to question her friendship and more importantly what she’s capable of doing.

Did you really travel to Italy for the book? I did! I spent twenty days traveling through the same cities as Jill and Simone. I loved being able to use research as an excuse to eat my way through the country and do all the activities I wanted.  “It’s not that I want more gelato, but I have to figure out which flavor would be Jill’s favorite.”  I fell in love with Italy and would love to go back again. It’s truly a magical place.


What advice would you give to other writers? Read and write a lot. Books, both those you love and even those you dislike, are great teachers so give yourself permission to read as many as you can. Look at how the author chose to tell their story, what made you like (or dislike) a character, was there a section where you found yourself compulsively turning pages?  The second half of my advice is to write a lot- writing is a craft.  You get better the more you do it. It can be discouraging at first because the idea in your head is perfect and shiny and wonderful and your first draft is not. The secret is to push through that process.

What books or authors inspired you as a writer? This is a hard question because there are so many great books out there.  As a kid I loved Ronald Dahl (‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’), ‘The Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler’, and anything by Judy Blume.  Other authors that I like include Stephen King (he still scares the pants off of me)  Gillian Flynn, Kate Morton and Donna Tartt.  While I don’t have one favorite book – ‘A Prayer for Owen Meany’ is one I have read multiple times.

Eileen Cook Q&A

Do you listen to music while writing? I know a lot of writers who have set playlists for their books and have set music that makes it easier for them to write.  I often have CBC or NPR radio going in the background to keep me company while writing, but I don’t have any set playlists. I find it too easy to start singing along and the next thing I know I’m distracted. Currently I am listening to the new Adele album over and over. I love music, but I don’t have a single musical note in my body. When I sing it sounds like someone stepped on a hamster. This is why I only do it when I’m alone.

Are you working on a new book now? Yes! If I’m honest I am the happiest when I have a book project underway. During the periods when I’m not writing I feel a bit adrift and purposeless. I love the day-to-day process of trying to get an idea from my head onto the page and seeing how it evolves and changes. My current book involves a young woman who is a fake psychic. This has given me an excuse to do a whole bunch of random research including the fact that I am getting to be pretty good at reading Tarot cards.  I can’t tell you too much about the book at this point, but it involves a missing girl and a bunch of lies that cause more trouble than the main character ever imagined possible.

‘With Malice’ is out now from Hot Key Books!

Read it already? Tell us what you thought at @maximumpopbooks!


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Written by Sophie Waters

Sophie is the Head of Commercial at Maximum Pop! Having studied English Lit and Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, she came to MP! to satisfy her passion for books. Sophie is a diehard Hufflepuff and feminist. She's also a huge cat lover, and can often be found rocking her socks off at a gig.

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